Getting More Impact with your Environmental Programs

Why would you want impactful environmental programs in your organization?

For the purpose of answering this question, three points will be discussed:

  • Current trending in business
  • Organizational leadership
  • The transition from government to the private sector

Current trending in business

There is a growing realization by businesses (any business) that retaining and growing their customer base as well as attracting talented employees is dependent in-part upon a strong Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) system of programs being in place of which environmental programs are a part.  In fact, many larger business procurement policies already include provisions to deal with companies (B2B) that have impactful programs. I recall some 10 years ago when I was working for CH2M HILL that we selected hotels for accommodation on the basis of having established environmental programs as part of our environmental management system (EMS). For a company of over 14,000 employees at the time, this was significant to hotel chains.

Organizational leadership

Many people and businesses want less and less government intervention. Typically, governments are the de facto leaders of improving the environment and addressing many of the world issues.  If not government, as these issues get worse and worse, then who?  Many people are looking to private organizations to step up as the new leaders with their innovative and efficient processes and real effects on the development of products and services.  This is already happening and will only get stronger in the future.  Industry Product Stewardship is a good example of this transition where cooperative industry groups work together to address the management of the solid wastes related to their products with a variety of tools such as encouraging post-consumer recyclable content in their new products immediately creating a market for these materials while reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

The transition from government to the private sector

Many people would agree that our government’s role is to address social and environmental issues through regulation, facilitation in the absence of alternatives, and perhaps providing regional controls.  An example may look like the practice to gain feedstocks that are sufficient to gain the economy-of-scale needed to address what is typically a ubiquitous product such as municipal solid waste.  When alternatives come into place from the private sector where more innovative and efficient approaches have been identified, it is then appropriate to step back and let the free market deal with the issue whilst maintaining the controls to make sure the overall community goals are on track.  This is what is happening now in many places.  Therefore, in many places, it is now feasible and time for organizations with the many service options and product types at their disposal (pardon the pun) to move forward with their environmental CSR programs.

Feel good when you are at work and home

It is a frustrating world when pressure is constantly being brought to bear from not only our customers, but also our children and families to do more for our strained environment.  Knowing that you are not only doing something, but you are also doing something that has an impact of which to be proud will contribute to better feelings within you.  This is not trivial, as feeling good about oneself will resonate through workmates and out into customers.

What is the typical approach to putting in an environmental management system?

Hire an expert

Many organizations develop long-term strategic plans that emanate from top to bottom through passive consultation (e.g. surveys) with employees and active consultation with senior leadership.  Unfortunately, the results I have witnessed suggest many of the plans implemented do not have the desired or expected impacts, despite the investments made.  The challenge often stems from a lack of active engagement of those who deliver or receive the service along with minimal cross-departmental incentives to name but a few.

Do it in-house

Many organizations delegate the setting up an environmental management system to personnel within the company, who often struggle to carry out these new duties along with their core responsibilities.  Additionally, they may not have the skills, experience, and time to carry out such duties creating a seemingly endless in-progress process that, when completed, the original conditions have changed too much and undermine much of the work completed.

What are eight methods to increase environmental impact?

My partner/wife and I have had many discussions throughout the evening about how to increase impact. With my focus on organizational leadership systems to implement environmental programs and her focus on the psychology of raising consciousness within personnel, it has become clear that for a real transformation within an organization, both aspects are fundamental.  Here are eight random approaches that can add momentum to any environmental CSR program.

1: Spark to fire

Does it motivate you to again receive another policy or procedure from your leadership telling you how to do your job?  Is it usually something copied from somewhere else claiming to be a best management practice?  Imagine being engaged to the point where your leadership recognizes your burning desire to do something that betters the world and includes you in the development of what it takes to make it happen.  Then, they empower you to lead this program and supply the resources, the recognition, and support. How do you feel now?  That feeling of energy you feel when you are fulfilling your a meaninful vocation is powerful.  Programs designed this way will succeed beyond their expectations.  Choose and build your environmental CSR programs around the passions of your workforce.  Fan those existing sparks.

2: Stoking the fire

Sitting at the side of your campfire and blowing into the early flames while moving around the materials causes, the flames to spread much faster.

Fires cause other sparks

Flames in one area will cause sparks that will spread into other areas, igniting more fires.  When your personnel see the support given and the success attained, they too may feel the same passionate energy and maybe even a little more confidence because it worked with someone else.  Find those individuals and ignite their sparks to stoke the fire by allowing them the same, where they too can realize their passions.  Inspired employees who make a difference in the world inspire others to do the same.  Stoke that fire.

Fanning the flames

Blowing more oxygen into your fire will increase intensity.  There usually has to be something in it for anyone going beyond themselves.  Otherwise, they will do it somewhere else on their own time.  Build positive recognition plans in the delivery of your programs and tie them to personnel performance review criteria.  Recognition needs to be immediate with stretch goals throughout the year, so be creative and have fun.  Your staff members will love this and be energized.

3: Fuelling your fire

You may need more resources to fuel your fire.  An efficient organization will likely already have a strong balance between resources and output focused on core duties.  The silo effect, due partially to varying resources and mandates, grows stronger as organizations get larger.  Departmental mandates are specific and often do not focus on environmental CSR programs as this is not their core business and not profitable.  I recall with one organization where I and my client’s lead were able to sit down with each department director on a one-on-one basis to find out their views of their specific mandates both to understand them and to determine where an environmental program could be developed that aligned with this mandate.  This did two things: one, the director had a much easier time supporting a program consistent with their own department’s mandate based on existing resources, and two, for aspects of an environmental program that were outside of their departmental mandate, it was easier to inject in the support where needed.  This removed the fear of having new programs that diminished their department’s ability to carry out their core mandate.

4: Creating your fire when conditions are favourable

Creating your fire when conditions are suitable will increase the change of success along with the impact.  Plan development, plan reviews, budget time, new policies, etc. are all opportune times to implement change.  Inform your employees through a simple table of these opportune times and the action needed to be taken to harmonize the organization change-management mechanisms with your environmental CSR programs.  Bringing your new programs forward when your leadership is listening will greatly improve their receptivity.

5: Removing non-combustibles from your fire

I had the pleasure of attending a seminar by a master organizational change-manager.  He coined the term “genesis committee” when he was able to turn a billion-dollar company around that was paralyzed with the silo effect.  I continue to see in many organizations, internal bureaucracies that block an organization’s ability to respond in a timely matter with interrupted decision-making.  When you think of layering environmental CSR programs onto the paralyzed core programs, you have a recipe leading nowhere good.  What he did to break down the silos was to create inter-departmental committees focused on specific and distinct projects.  Each member of the committee was empowered with decision-making ability on behalf of their respective departments.  These committees fast-tracked decision-making and moved projects through decision processes much faster.  The company was turned completely around and production radically increased.  You can do this kind of thing for your CSR programs.

6: Drying out your combustibles

Materials become combustible when properly prepared, like seasoning firewood.  What is even worse than being told to do something you were not involved in creating, is being told to do things you do not agree with, or do not understand.  This is especially important with your front-line employees where the rolling of eyes or lack of energy can be seen by the customers.  Put consciousness into action by educating employees on the subject matter that they have to adapt to, so they understand its importance.  I would even recommend testing them or giving them reading material with open dialogues and debates, so everyone can see the light.  When a customer comes in the organization, they will delight to see inspired personnel cooperating better with each other.  My wife and I saw this happen with a company of which we purchased our cellphones and service.  The products and services were competitive, but the positive energy and cooperative approaches of the personnel are what made up our minds on using that service.

7: Tending to the fire continuously

If your fire is not regularly tended and maintained, it has the chance of being snuffed out.  Having feedback from your employees and your customers to continually improve your programs is essential.  This can be done in a variety of ways.  Surveys and suggestion boxes may not be enough, so regular lessons learned meetings carefully facilitated in a positive way to draw out that creative energy is worthwhile.

8: Aerate your fire

Providing pathways where air can access your fire ensures it burns long and bright.  As reference points for the flow of information, especially for new personnel entering the system, the art of carefully crafting policies, procedures, programs, etc. is essential to maintain the change needed.  Not everyone is ready for change at any given moment in time, so having a documented system of open access to information in place that allows personnel to learn and absorb at their own rate is essential.  Making this reference system, in a sense, “living”, where all documented elements are continually improved, is also essential.  Remember, we are not only trying to implement a new program, we are trying to transform an organizational culture.

How can our services help you to develop the environmental impact you want?

Bringing in, or increasing the impact, of an environmental management system can be a daunting, or worse, an expensive exercise when invested funds have little impact.  Having an environmental leadership coach to help your organization maneuver through the waters of environmental change and culture transformation, will make the journey far more selective, efficient, exciting, engaging, discriminating, and, most of all, more impactful.  Your coach/advisor can help you to:

  • Identify not only the right consultants, but also the best scope of work for your company
  • Guide you through the labyrinth of policy-making efficiently while keeping your core business in mind
  • Target critical paths through your organizational culture to bridge areas needed for transformation change
  • Document your system from plans to policies to programs to contracts and more
  • Develop SMARTER programs and policies that better reflect your organizational culture
  • Provide more objective and confidential insights where needed to address the bigger picture of concerns
  • Confirm suitable technologies for the long-term viability of your programs
  • Minimize risk associated with the complex process of implementation
  • Lead, facilitate, mentor, and coach personnel to adapt to the new systems
  • Measure and be recognized corporately for the impacts your organization is making
  • Sign up for training either on-site or on-line that is currently available or customized to suite your needs

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